The Interrelationship Between Water Use Efficiency and Radiation Use Efficiency Under Progressive Soil Drying in Maize

Front Plant Sci. 2021 Dec 10;12:794409. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.794409. eCollection 2021.


The maximizing of water use efficiency (WUE) and radiation use efficiency (RUE) is vital to improving crop production in dryland farming systems. However, the fundamental question as to the association of WUE with RUE and its underlying mechanism under limited-water availability remains contentious. Here, a two-year field trial for maize designed with five progressive soil drying regimes applied at two different growth stages (three-leaf stage and seven-leaf stage) was conducted during the 2013-2014 growing seasons. Both environmental variables and maize growth traits at the leaf and canopy levels were measured during the soil drying process. The results showed that leaf WUE increased with irrigation reduction at the early stage, while it decreased with irrigation reduction at the later stage. Leaf RUE thoroughly decreased with irrigation reduction during the progressive soil drying process. Aboveground biomass (AGB), leaf area index (LAI), a fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (fAPAR), and light extinction coefficient (k) of the maize canopy were significantly decreased by water deficits regardless of the growth stages when soil drying applied. The interrelationships between WUE and RUE were linear across the leaf and canopy scales under different soil drying patterns. Specifically, a positive linear relationship between WUE and RUE are unexpectedly found when soil drying was applied at the three-leaf stage, while it turned out to be negative when soil drying was applied at the seven-leaf stage. Moreover, the interaction between canopy WUE and RUE was more regulated by fAPAR than LAI under soil drying. Our findings suggest that more attention must be paid to fAPAR in evaluating the effect of drought on crops and may bring new insights into the interrelationships of water and radiation use processes in dryland agricultural ecosystems.

PMID:34956294 | PMC:PMC8704143 | DOI:10.3389/fpls.2021.794409


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